Page 47 of Beta (Alpha 2)

“Holy shit, Harris. How’d you get your hands on one of those?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Know a guy.”

“All right, fine. Keep your secrets, then.” It was supposed to be a joke, but it came out flat. I rubbed my temples with my middle fingers. “You have a plan?”

He nodded. “Yep. Find ’em, start killing.”

“Your plan might need some fleshing out, possibly.”

He closed the case, set it behind the seat once more, and resumed thumbing shells into the clip. I realized, belatedly, that it wasn’t a clip, but rather a magazine, and the shells were 7.62 NATO rounds. “Yeah, maybe.”

There was an explosion of concrete at my feet, accompanied by a distant CRACK.

“Shit!” I ducked behind the body of the chopper. “Someone is shooting at me!”

“No shit.” Harris was already flipping switches, bringing the aircraft to life. “We have to get out of here, Mr. Roth.”

As he said that, a bullet hit the windscreen of the helicopter, splintering it, followed by another round to the seat just behind Harris’s head.

“I can’t leave Kyrie here!”

“They’re not trying to kill us. We’d already be dead if they were. She’s locked in your quarters. We’ll circle around and find the shooter, and then swing by to grab her.” He pointed at the seat. “Now get the fuck in the helo!”

Something buzzed angrily past my face, going through both open doors of the aircraft, accompanied by a CRACK. The helicopter was roaring, the rotors a blur overhead, creating a downdraft so powerful I could barely stand up under it. My gut churned as I slid into the passenger seat, the chopper leaving the ground even before I was fully seated.

I stared at the door leading down to my quarters; I was leaving Kyrie behind. I’d promised her I wouldn’t, but here I was, doing it. Another round hit, pocking the body, and another one, hitting the nose. We were being driven away, I realized, as the roof of the tower fell away.

“I don’t like this, Harris,” I shouted. “They’re herding us away from the building.”

“No shit. Don’t see much option unless you want a bullet through the skull.”

Harris had the engine at full bore, the nose angling down to push us aggressively forward, away from the building at a speed reckless for an urban area. The crack of the rifle was no longer audible, and if we were being shot at anymore, the shooter was missing. Or, more worrisomely, they’d successfully driven us off the roof and didn’t need to shoot.

Harris circled my tower several times at a distance of a few blocks, scanning the rooftops, but if he saw anything, he wasn’t letting on.

And then my phone chirped, letting me know I had a message. My stomach roiled as I brought the device out of my pocket. The message was displayed on the sleep screen. It wasn’t a message, though; it was a picture.

Of Kyrie.

She was in a chair in the library, clutching her leg, which was a bloody wreck. She’d been shot. Her face was a mask of shock and agony.

Hellish rage boiled inside me, red filling my vision, blocking out the world, blocking out thought and reason. “Go back,” I growled.

“We can’t—” Harris began.

My phone chimed again, and another picture winked into life on the screen beneath the first. This one was a selfie, clearly taken by Gina. She had a suppressed Walther PPK held to Kyrie’s temple, her lips pursed, glee in her eyes. You could just barely make out the bloody mess of Kyrie’s knee at the bottom of the photograph.

I showed the photos to Harris, who glanced at them briefly, then returned his attention to piloting the helicopter.

His lips compressed into a thin white line. I could see his knuckles whitening as he gripped the controls. “Fuck.”

I didn’t bother responding. Harris jerked the chopper around violently, slewing the nose back toward my building and throttling forward. As we neared my rooftop, he pointed behind my seat. “There are a couple of cases back there. Grab one.”

I twisted around and grabbed one of the pistol cases, opened it, and pulled out the pistol contained within, a Glock .357. There was a preloaded spare clip, which I tucked into my back pocket. As I checked the load on the other clip, Harris had the helo flaring over the rooftop. I leapt out while the skids were still two feet in the air. I was through the door within seconds, ignoring the spit of a round cratering in the doorframe, ignoring Harris’s shouts to wait, ignoring the suppressed bark of Harris’s MSR as he popped off several rounds.

I took the stairs three at a time, ran through the door and into the hallway beyond my private quarters. Up into the library. I slid to my knees in the spot where I knew the photo had been taken, my favorite spot in the upper back corner, with the antique overstuffed leather chair. There was only a blot of darkening, drying blood where she’d been. No note. No other evidence, except the casing on the floor near one of the stacks.

Harris was waiting for me by the front door, staring at something off to the left, in the formal sitting room. I felt my feet dragging, as if knowing I would find something horrible, and didn’t want to get within sight of it. I glanced at Harris, and saw the sorrow on his face, then his cold, calculating, murderous rage.

I’d seen and done a lot of nasty shit in my life.

Nothing could have prepared me for the sight of Eliza, dead on the floor with a bullet through her skull. I fell to my knees beside her, my jeans slipping in the tacky blood. “Eliza. God, no. No. Eliza!”

“Come on, man. We gotta move.” Harris was pulling at me, lifting me up.

“They killed Eliza, Harris.”

“I know.” His voice was too calm, too quiet. “That woman was like a mother to me, Valentine. Trust me, we’ll get these fuckers. We’ll fucking slaughter every last goddamn one of them. But first, we have to go. We have to move.”

“We can’t leave her here, Harris.”

“We won’t. I’ve got a contact in the city who can take care of things. Clean up the mess, take Eliza someplace where we can bury her in private after all this is over. Okay?”

I let him push me into motion, and we headed back up to the helicopter. I was in a daze after that, my mind cycling rapidly through all the worst scenarios. Gina had Kyrie. She’d shot her.

“I’ve never hurt a woman before, Harris.” I spoke softly into the headset. “I’ve never once done anything to physically harm a woman. Not even when Gina begged me to do shit to her. But…I’m going to kill her, Harris. I’m going to put a bullet in her fucking head.”